Saturday, October 31, 2020

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Hey, Kids! Collect 'Em ALL!

 Not really. These units should pretty much complete my Heathkit acquisitions. These guys will need some work, but as the expen$ive electrolytic capacitors are on hand, any additional outlay should be quite small. I inventoried my on-hand tubes, and have to cross it against the tube compliment of each radio. The only tubes I know I need are the last-gasp-of-vacuum-tubes "Compactrons". They were made in very large quantities for color TV sets, and are still readily available.


So, I rearranged the operating desk a bit, added an old Ikea riser shelf that I rattle canned a dark brown to kinda-sorta match the desk, and propped the "visiting" rigs in place.

I've wanted to do this since last summer, but finally got a circular tuit. These guys will go down to the workshop in the next few days to begin their journey back to operational status, but I wanted to see how they looked up there.


Future "Guest Rigs" will include my Hallicrafters SX-117/HT-44 pair:


And my Drake R-4B and T-4XB:


I also have a Kenwood TS-950SDX, but it's safely tucked away, so here's a "file photo" courtesy of rigpix:




Sunday, October 25, 2020

Snow!

 It started last night around 2300, just little, tiny flakes coming down, and by 0100 when I went lights-out, we had a couple of inches. Not snowing extremely heavy, but just a constant snowfall.

The "snow gauge" shows about 8", with another 4"~8" during the day, and a forecast of an additional 3"~7" overnight. Gonna be a real mess on Monday morning!


And it's piled up and around my "Cease Fire" smoker's ashtray/bucket.....


And the streets are covered.....

One of the neighbor kids came offering to shovel the snow for $5, and he did such a bang-up job I gave him $10. The temps are going back up on Tuesday, so after this melts, I *WILL* be going to get a snowblower.

There was significantly more snow at the higher elevations, over 10" last I heard, and that should help dampen the fires.


It's 1700 now, and 11*, on it's way down to TWO degrees tonight. Gonna be a good night to crank up the fireplace.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Cloudy Day, But No Smoke

 We had a light dusting of snow last night. It was the kind that doesn't come down in flakes, but rather itty-bitty snowballs. The reports from the fire areas indicate they received a couple of inches, which will definitely help.

There's a front coming through tomorrow night, and it's packing some moisture. Last night we had a forecast 50%~80% chance of rain and snow, with possibly an inch of accumulation.

This afternoon the NWS upped the ante quite a bit, calling for an 80%~90% chance of precipitation, but now predicting three to seven inches of accumulation on Sunday.....

Oh, boy.....and I don't have my new snowblower yet! Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda strikes again.

But the USPS delivered all the new electrolytic capacitors for the Heathkit receiver and transmitter, so I'll be able to hang out in the basement and get started on the recommissioning of those two radios.

The set on the left are for the transmitter, and the ones on the right are for the receiver, which I'll do first. When I rebuilt my SB-310 "Shortwave" version of this receiver I think I had about ten hours in it, including replacing the rectifiers in the power supply (3 diodes) and doing a complete alignment on it. This one might take a bit longer as I have some cleaning to do on it, and you never know what you might find when you pull it out of the case and look at the bottom of the chassis.

The four big "Can Capacitors" are new manufacture, made here in the USA in Cedar Rapids, IA, and have higher rated voltages and slightly increased capacitance due to their construction from more modern materials. The smaller capacitors in the bags are also new manufacture, and readily available. The only reason I bought the complete "kits" from the people who make and sell the big cans was just to make it a one-stop transaction.

I'll do a tube inventory of my tube stock and the transmitter, and see what other tubes I need to order besides the 0A2 Voltage Regulator Tube, which I'm 99% sure I don't have. Some of the tubes are common to the receiver, and are used in my Drake and Hallicrafters radios, so I should be well-stocked on those. The 6BZ6 was even used in the radios I worked on while on the Iowa.

I'll rearrange the station desk here in the sunroom so I can use the riser I have to hold another set of radios. It'll be my "Operational Boat Anchor" station, and I'll be able to rotate between the Heathkit, Drake, and Hallicrafters rigs I have.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

And Another Smokey "Armageddon" Day

 I agree with Well Seasoned Fool on this.....it's really getting tiresome.

We have two relatively new fires; The CalWood fire South of us by Longmont. and the East Troublesome fire, directly West of there.



The ash fall from this current dump was about the worst it's been. The ash was in bigger pieces, chunky instead of flaky, and a good 1/4" deep on the windshield down by the wipers.

The Cameron Peak fire is the Northernmost one, with the blue line indicating how much is contained. It's around 207,000 acres after the massive 70,000 acre run it did last week. Estimates for lost structures is around 190, and expected to go higher.

The "small" fire South of us is the CalWood fire at about 7,000 acres. This is the one that was blowing smoke across I-25 yesterday.

And the big fire West of that is the East Troublesome fire, currently at well over 125,000 170,000 acres, becoming the second largest fire in Colorado history.


This is pretty much what the CalWood fire looked like coming back from DIA yesterday. Image courtesy of Wildfiretoday.com

Sweet Little Wife was almost crying when she saw it as we drove past.

We're praying for our firefighters, and praying for rain.......


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Another Smokey Night.....

 Had to run SLW down to the airport this afternoon, and got to see the two new fires South of us. There's one by Longmont, the Calwood fire, and two more further down by Boldaria, the East Troublesome fire, and the Left Hand Canyon fires. They're further back in the mountains, but are still pumping smoke.

The worst I saw was down by CO-66 on the North edge of Longmont. I could see the smoke drifting across the highway at times, and it was a little unsettling. Coming back from the airport let me see the fires from a different direction, and it looked like mushroom cloud. You could see the wind vortexes swirling the smoke up maybe 10,000' feet high, and it immediately reminded me of the diagrams in my flight manuals from long ago.


The closer fire, the Cameron Peak one, is now over 206,000 acres with 52% containment. The Northeastern lobe of the fire, which affects where the in-laws live is pretty much contained, so the evacuations orders have been lifted, and they can move back in to the homestead. The Southern front of the fires continues to burn, and is rapidly approaching US 34, one of the main roads in and out of Estes Park. US 34 has been washed out and rebuilt several times in the last 15 years or so, and now there's a fire bearing down on it.


The weather forecast is predicting a 30% chance of "Wintry Mix" Thursday night, but there's an 80% forecast of rain and snow for Saturday night. The chances of precipitation improve at higher elevations, so maybe this coming storm can dump enough moisture on it to give the firefighters a break.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

And Now For Something Completely Different.....

 USPS delivered these two guys yesterday:


These are Heathkit "SB Series" radios. The one on the left is an SB-301 receiver, and the one on the right is the matching SB-401 transmitter.

Inside the receiver:


Inside the transmitter:


These are dusty inside, but it's evident they've been stored in the proverbial "Cool, DRY Place", as they show ZERO signs of corrosion on any of the plated hardware, which is astounding for 55 year old Heathkit equipment. The plating they used on some of the hardware had a distinct tendency to get a funky, chalky whitish powder coating if they were stored in a damp environment, and some of the steel hardware was very prone to rust. There's also no signs of any overheating, burnt parts, smoke/pet residue, strange odors, or anything else funky about them.

The microphone looks like it just came out of the box!

The transmitter has the optional "Crystal Pack", which means it can operate independently of the receiver, or you can flip a switch and have the frequency controlled by the receiver, giving you full transceive operation.

The receiver has the optional 400Hz CW filter, and I have an AM filter down in the basement I've had for decades.

These were both built by the same gentleman, and the soldering looks beautiful. Wire and lead dress is also very good. And the manuals were included, along with the original owner's notes.

I wasn't looking for these, they just kind of found me. I check the eBay listings daily to try and keep abreast of what certain items, mostly radio equipment, are worth. While I was going through the Heathkit listings, I found the receiver. I checked the other items the seller had, and found the transmitter. It was obvious from the listing pictures these were in extremely nice cosmetic condition for their age, and they didn't look modified in any way, And I didn't notice any darkening of the circuit boards around certain parts on them in the transmitter, indicating it had never been rode hard and put up wet. In short, these appeared to be a matched pair from the same builder in remarkably good condition for their age. All the interconnecting cables and both of the funky "two pin" power cords were included, another bonus.


Here's the "hook" in the story.....When I passed my General Class Amateur Radio license in early 1965, still in grade school, my Dad was so proud I thought he was going to bust. We'd talked about upgrading my Novice Class station before IF I passed the General Class 13wpm Morse Code and theory exams. And when I did, he took me up to the Heathkit store, and gave me a budget of $800, a LOT of $$ in 1965, and we bought these two kits, a matching speaker, a Station Console with an SWR meter, Phone Patch, and 10 minute Station Identification timer, and an electronic keyer so my high-speed Morse Code would be easier to send.

The reason getting a General Class Amateur Radio was such a big deal "Back In The Day", is that you didn't have access to the questions and problems you were going to answer and solve, or Test Exams on the Internet, like you do these days. The Questions used by the FCC were Above Top Secret! You never knew exactly what the questions were going to be, other than cut-and-died stuff like frequency bands, power levels, and other regulatory stuff that you just had to memorize. This forced you to really study and know the basics about A.C. and D.C. circuits, radio theory, how circuits operated, what all the components were and how they worked, how transmitters and receivers worked,  propagation of radio signals, and many other things. In short, you really had to know electronics in general, and radio in specific. One problem on the exam I received was to analyze a section of a transmitter schematic, and report why it didn't work. I happened to get the "trick" problem to solve, and it drove me bonkers. I looked at the circuit every way I could think of, and couldn't find anything wrong with it. My answer was that it had no problems, and should work. The FCC examiner who graded my paper looked at me, and said "Good Job, young man".

So now I have these two radios, a direct connection to my youth, and the start of my serious pursuit of a career in electronics. I could most likely "Bring Them Up On A Variac" to reform the filter capacitors in the power supplies, but I'll probably just shot-gun them by replacing all the electrolytic capacitors in both units. I should have all the required parts except for the large "Twist Lock" capacitors in the power supplies. Fortunately these are being made new again, and by replacing them, the equipment should be good for another 50 years of service. I know I have at least two complete sets of tubes for the receiver, as it matches the Shortwave version of this receiver that I own, and at least four of the 6146 Final Amplifier tubes for the transmitter (it uses two of them), and should have the rest of the tubes in General Stock. There are three "Compactron" tubes in it I don't think I have, so I'll have to get some of them.


And we got some rain last night! The rain gauge indicated .01", which was enough to wet the streets here. We went to a birthday party today for one of TLG's cousins, and the In-Laws have had to evacuate again. The Cameron peak fire is now over 200,000 acres, but the unexpected cool, wet weather (snow at higher elevations) has slowed the fire some after a 24,000 acre expansion on Thursday and Friday. Lots of talk from people who know the area, the history, the USFS, and all the local agencies involved. Most of the talk concerns how this fire has been managed compared to the others over the years. Terms like "Charlie Foxtrot" were tossed around, mostly directed at the top levels of the state government. Consensus was that the forests out here have been mismanaged the last 25 years, and we're paying the price for it.

As a comment on the political climate "out here" (gotta stop saying that), TWO of the young (8~10 years) boys at the birthday party were dressing up as Navy Seals for Halloween.


And we finally watched John Wick last night. What a roller coaster of a movie! Even SLW enjoyed it.....


Friday, October 16, 2020

NINE Helicopters in 10 Minutes?

 Geez....I haven't seen this much air activity since I last went to an airshow.....

Two Sikorsky "Sky Cranes" 

Two "Hueys" 

A Blackhawk

Three Jet Ranger/Long Rangers

And two others of the "Medivac" type, that I've seen, but can never remember the name.

An hour or so ago I heard one in "hover mode", which might have been a news crew or the "Multi-Mission" helo they use for IR mapping of the fire.

Since they were all headed away from the Cameron peak fire area, and the NWS forecast is calling for "Blustery" winds, I'm guessing they're shutting down for the night.


The fire has now consumed over 167,000 acres.



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Very Dark, SMOKEY Day

 Took this right about High Noon:

 

We're talking gettin' close to midnight in a coal bin at noon here. There's kind of a hole in the smoke, and you can see one lone white cloud trying to shine through:

Looking to the North shows the edge of the plume, with blue sky behind it:

This is a screenshot of the local NWS weather radar in Cheyenne from a couple of hours later. The big green and blue streak across the map is the radar return from the smoke plume. That shade of green normally corresponds to "It's Raining", but it's not rain. It's pretty dense smoke to give a return that strong. It was stronger earlier in the day, but I didn't think to record it.


There's a frost warning for tonight, but no rain forecast for the next week.

The latest incident map shows the fire to now be about 14 miles from here. The new "finger" sticking out from Signal Mountain headed East towards the Horsetooth Reservoir is new in the last 24 hours, explaining why the smoke has gotten so heavy and the air so rancid here. We kept The Little Guy indoors all day, and even Pebbles didn't care to go out and walk the backyard, it was that bad.

If it doubles again like that in the next 24 hours, it will be right on top of the reservoir, and headed for some very exclusive homes.



Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A New Addition To The Fleet

 Well, we have another new occupant for the garage.


Yep, one of those battery-powered, 90% plastic, "Powered Riding Toy" contraptions that you see quite a few of these days. You can hear them rumbling around many suburban neighborhoods, and they make a very distinctive sound. I could ramble on about soap-box roller skate scooters, but I won't. This is 2020, and this is what kids play with these days.

As features go, this one is a nice one, in the "$300 Class" of Children's Powered Riding Toys, and it appears to be somewhat sophisticated as these things go. The most unusual thing about it, and I'd never seen one, is that this thing is run by Remote Control!


Yup, a "Certified Adult" can watch their offspring driving around, and completely overrule them. One of the buttons is labeled with a big "P", which the pidgin instructions indicate is for "Park", but it's description of operation leads me to believe it should be called "PANIC STOP" because if Mom or Dad mashes that one, it remotely kills the vehicle, and it stops in it's tracks.

It has a nice dashboard with a real-time display of the battery voltage when it's powered on.

 

The red button on the lower left turns on the LED headlights, and they're way better than the ones I had on that electric snowblower! The button on the lower right has the universal "ON/OFF" symbol, and there's a "FAST/SLOW" rocker switch above the left hand A/C vent. It switches from low range @1.7MPH to high range @2.4MPH. I'm guessing it just ups the voltage to the motors as this is the only "Speed Control" it has. The throttle is strictly ON/OFF when you either push down the floor pedal, or select "Forward" on the remote. It has NO brakes, and when you command it to stop, it takes a few hundred milliseconds to cut the power to the motors, meaning it keeps moving for a couple of more feet. The rocker switch in between the A/C "vents" selects "Forward" or "Reverse". Above the rocker switch where the radio would be in a real Jeep, is the battery voltage display.

And the steering is the same "Full Left" or "Full Right" from the remote control. The driver can steer it more accurately, but it takes some muscle because you're fighting the electric motor in the assembly they use to control the steering.

This type of Fully On or Fully Off control system is called a "Bang-Bang" control because you go all the way one way or the other. The Silicon Graybeard had an excellent post on Bang-Bang Control the other day, and how it relates to his A/C system.
 

This "Children's Powered Riding Toy" (I kid you not, it's a whole range of toys and manufacturers) is imported by "Best Choice Products", and has terrible reviews due to their replacement (or not) parts policy. If something breaks within the first 60 days, they give you a new one. After that, Sorry, Charlie! NO parts are available, meaning if something big takes a dump, that's where the entire thing is headed. So since it's here in the garage, and I'll be responsible for it's maintenance and operation, I figured I'd better dig in to it and see what makes one of these tick.

It has a 12 Volt, 10Amp/Hour battery, a very rudimentary motor control, and two 12 Volt motors, one at each rear wheel, driving the wheel through a gear box.

Battery:

Motor Controller:


Motor:

 

Gear Box:

The motor is rated 10,000RPM, so it's geared down quite a bit, giving these things their distinctive sound.

The battery has a 17 Amp circuit breaker in series with the hot lead, and each motor has a 10 Amp breaker.

I looked for something resembling a servo for the steering, and none was to be found. Then it hit me...it's part of the dashboard!

The steering "mechanism" on this thing is incredibly crude. The white star-shaped item is the motor-driven "Left/Right" steering "servo", and the steering shaft goes through it, and has a mating piece of plastic on it to key the shafts together. The "J-Hook" part of it goes to what would be a "drag link" in automotive terms, and that moves the steering arms.

 The gray cable is the 12 Volts for the headlight at the far right.


So that's the newest addition to the fleet, along with a quick analysis of it. If I gotta fix it, and I will, I'd best learn about what makes it tick.....





Sunday, October 11, 2020

Crazy Windy Today

 We've had sustained winds of 15~20MPH with gusts to 45 all day, and the trees aren't liking it. The 70' cottonwood in the neighbors yard cut loose with a big branch that came crashing down earlier today.

Here's our Perimeter Security Force carefully checking it out to make sure it's safe.


The branch is several inches in diameter, and if it wasn't cottonwood, It would have been big enough to keep for firewood, like I did to the big branches from the crab apple tree.


And the wind scattered TLG's "water table" plaything, and blew over the patio table/umbrella/IRON base, and chairs.



That cast-iron base weighs a good 40 pounds! The wind was strong enough that it blew it over with the umbrella reefed-and-stowed.


But my wire antenna (invisible here except for the support) stayed up and is still working, and the 20 Meter vertical seen in the other pix stayed up as well.

 

And it appears that we have a squirrel nest in our ash tree. I'd seen some squirrels carrying string, yarn, ribbons, and other "nesty" stuff over the last few weeks, but I thought they were taking it over to the "Squirrel Tree" in the neighbor's yard.

Nope, got our own "Squirrel Tree" now.

As long as they stay in the tree I'm OK with it. The original owner's of this house had a raccoon get stuck in the flue pipe for the fireplace many years ago. Not sure how that turned out, as the neighbor that told us didn't remember.

Beautiful day today, though. We didn't get any rain here, but the weather radar showed what appeared to be some decent moisture in the Cameron Peak fire area, and some went through the Mullen fire area, too.


They're still pretty big, and will probably burn for a few more weeks, or until the winter rains and snow comes.





Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Fall Color!

 Thought I'd better get some snaps of the maple tree in front of the house before it drops too many more leaves!

This particular variety is the Amur Maple, Acer ginnala, and is known for having vivid Fall colors, and for being a very hardy, vigorous tree.



From the inside:



And from the driveway:

 

And TLG helped put up some Halloween decorations. Supposed to say "HELP" in bloody letters:


And our "Anti Witch Defense System" downed it's first hostile:

-"Roger that Viper-6. Splash One Witch!"

-"Viper-6, Sierra Hotel!"

The crabapple tree has just started showing signs of color, and should be quite pretty in a week or so.



Friday, October 2, 2020

Smokey Night Again....

 The fires have expanded some, and I'm using the plural because one that started up Wyoming way, has burned it's way down into Colorado.

The Cameron Peak fire, the closest one, is at about 125,000 acres, and is 34% contained. It's continuing to burn on the Northern section, and has just about turned to head East down Poudre Canyon.

The Mullen fire, which started in the Medicine Bow range in Wyoming, has spread down into Colorado, and is now about 120,000 acres, with no mention of containment.

The image below shows the two burn areas. The roads in red are the closures.


And we've got absolutely ZIP for precipitation in the forecast for at least another week.

Update On The Pioneer SX-780 and Speakers

 Sooooo....I dragged the two speakers I made some time ago out of the basement, and set them up with the SX-780. When I used these speakers ...